ILAC webinar: judicial independence hanging by a…
The International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) hosted a webinar to discuss the threat to judicial independence in Guatemala.
The president of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
We’re concerned about the ongoing intimidation and harassment of several lawyers in Zimbabwe. We’re concerned that these lawyers may have been repeatedly targeted because of activities carried out in their professional capacity as lawyers.
Until recently, Beatrice Mtetwa from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) was the leading counsel of a legal team that included Douglas Coltart and others representing the investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono.
On 18 August, a court in Harare ruled that Ms Mtetwa was to be removed from representing Mr Chin’ono on the basis that she was in contempt of court.
The judge’s order was made following an application from the prosecutor-general, alleging that Ms Mtetwa had operated a Facebook page called ‘Beatrice Mtetwa and the Rule of Law’ that was critical of the judiciary in Zimbabwe.
It has also been reported that the judge in the case also recommended that the Law Society of Zimbabwe revoke her licence to practise law.
Ms Mtetwa has strongly denied contributing to, or operating, the Facebook page in question.
Ms Mtetwa has been previously detained by the police due to her internationally recognised work of representing human rights defenders in Zimbabwe.
In March 2013, she was arrested for “obstructing justice” while attending to a client whose home was being searched by the police.
She was subsequently charged and put on trial for allegedly using insulting language towards police officers, before being acquitted in November 2013.
It has also been reported that the Zimbabwean authorities deployed approximately 50 riot police to march in front of her law offices on 14 August 2020.
Mr Coltart has been previously arrested and physically assaulted by the police in Harare on multiple occasions, in connection with his representation of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ).
In May 2020, members of ARTUZ and Mr Coltart were summoned to court to answer charges of participating in a public gathering with the intent to incite public violence.
We urged the relevant Zimbabwean authorities to:
We continue to monitor the situation of members of the legal profession and other human rights defenders in Zimbabwe.
18 August 2020 – a Harare court removed Ms Mtetwa from representing investigative journalist Mr Chin’ono on the grounds that she was in contempt of court
14 August 2020 – Zimbabwean authorities allegedly deployed around 50 riot police to march in front of Ms Mtetwa’s law offices
May 2020 – Mr Coltart and ARTUZ members were summoned to court
November 2013 – Ms Mtetwa was acquitted
March 2013 – Ms Mtetwa was arrested for “obstructing justice” while attending to a client